It was difficult for a generation of elementary school boys to accept that their beloved Ninja Turtles were getting a digitally animated makeover by Michael Bay. Granted it’s a pretty bad-ass, buffer, Lou Ferrigno-esque body makeover, but turtles with nostrils? Come on. Anatomically correct or not, Leo, Mikey, Raph, and Donny looked weird. My childhood dreams had never been so crushed by a single trailer – not even by Turtles in Time. Needless to say, expectations were ridiculously low for this latest installment of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
To be honest, I contemplated walking out during the first scene when I realized the non-Japanese narrator’s accent was actually that of Splinter… it was too much. It wasn’t Monk’s fault (Tony Shalhoub); he’s from Green Bay, not Tokyo. Staying in my seat, however, proved to be not a total disappointment. Despite my predisposition to avoiding change like a 70 year-old man, I’ll admit I was entertained. And even though the plot line clearly called for an American accent for Splinter, there was no problem giving him a ridiculous Japanese sensei stereotype appearance. I suppose I can see past that, though.
This Michael Bay-produced version does a decent job holding true to the original film while still maintaining a sense of creativity, albeit in complete disregard for high school physics. When the Foot Clan starts running rampant in New York City, a set of secret vigilantes comes to the rescue…you guessed it, the turtles. Leonardo (played by Pete Ploszek and voiced by Johnny Knoxville…which in itself was a bit strange hearing old man Irving‘s voice for one of my grade school heroes), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), Raphael (Alan Ritchson…definitely not the guy from Die Hard), and Donatello (Jeremy Howard) disobey a direct order from Splinter to remain underground until they’re ninja training is complete. But how can they stand by idly while the people of New York need help? They run into a perpetually curios April O’Neil (played by Megan Fox, which was another beef I had – not that she didn’t a good job with the role she was given; she did – but 1) I never once saw her in a yellow jumpsuit and 2) she’s a far stretch from Judith Hoag, who was definitely the hot red head in the original, but not hot because she was like drop dead gorgeous, she had the classic curly red head look, not like the soulless ginger race Eric Cartman was looking to eradicate, just kidding… gingers do have souls, but anyway, where was I?). Oh yeah, April O’Neil – well it turns out she used to be the caretakers of the turtles at her father’s lab when she was younger, and ends up helping save…yada yada yada. It’s TMNT; you know the storyline.
The bottom line is that this movie has the appeal for a younger generation, and it won’t completely piss off fans of the original Turtles trilogy. It’s entertaining, and the use of 3-D is smart and adds a lot to the visual sense. The technology is definitely finding its footing and Jonathon Liebesman does a great job adding depth to all the shot sequences. In classic fashion, there is a lot of comedic relief – a lot of it cheesy, some of it genuinely funny. And you can definitely pick out some borrowed elements from the Transformers movies. I would say it’s decently kid-friendly; there’s a lot of violence, but not blood and guts violence and not old TV Batman violence – somewhere in-between. The foul language is kept to a minimum as well. The one thing that’s missing – Elias Koteas and his hockey stick. Because of that…